Camino Coda

It’s been 60 days since I walked into Santiago, soggy and weary but triumphant. In the past few weeks I’ve been trying to sum up my Camino experience for friends I’ve seen during my holiday stay in the U.S. and “rose-colored hindsight” is smoothing the rough edges of my memories, fading the trauma and accentuating the positives.

My foot blisters have all healed and my metatarsal stress fractures are almost healed, so it’s easy to gloss over the pain and physical challenges of my Camino. Looking back through the photos I took, I see the beauty of the Spanish countryside again and am glad that I did not take it for granted at the time, that I often stopped to take it all in. I also see many of the wonderful people I connected with, and am reminded of the camaraderie we shared.

Lots of little details of my journey have faded a bit, and seeing the photos and reminiscing have brought them back, thank goodness.

I’ve caught myself thinking of doing it again, the Camino Frances route again or maybe the shorter Camino Portuguese route, and using what I know now to make it easier/slower/better. My inner voice tells me this is not likely for several reasons, but that I’m flirting with the notion at all is a sign of the lasting, positive effect my walk had on me.

Post-Mortem Thoughts

I’m taking some time here to discuss how my Camino preparations worked and failed, in the hope that others planning to walk the Camino can benefit.

Advice Bias – It’s great to be able to read the blogs of folks who have completed the Camino and to learn from them. However, you need to apply some critical thinking when doing so. For example,

– What time of year was it when that other person made the walk and when will you be doing it? Any difference will make a huge difference in how applicable the advice is.
– How big is that person? Believe me, a pair of size 14 sandals and XXL clothing takes up a huge amount of space in a backpack (I’m 6’2″ – 220 lbs) creating a totally different packing challenge for me than for someone considerably smaller.
– What’s their fitness level? If they regularly run 10Ks and marathons and you don’t, then perhaps following their scheme of 32 kilometers per day on the Camino is just a bit too ambitious for you.
– How old is that person? Young people have a huge advantage on the Camino. I’m 68 and my joints are as creaky and worn out as those of most people in my age group. Advice from someone much younger/older than you may be less relevant.
– Did they have their backpack transported? It’s easy and cheap to have your backpack driven from one albergue to the next, relieving you of the effort of carrying it, which is significant. Did they do that? Are you planning to do the same?

Training – For seven months prior to leaving for Spain, I was in the gym five days a week, where I spent an hour a day on the treadmill and did upper body weight work every other day. For four months, I hiked 2-3 hours in a national park, with a full pack, one day each weekend. It turned me from a couch potato into a reasonably fit person, but it was not enough. I was not conditioned enough aerobically for the challenge ahead and my feet were not toughened up enough. The first week of the Camino was an exhausting shock. My feet were destroyed, even though I was careful to break-in my hiking boots and used SuperFeet “Green” hiking insoles. If I had to do it again, I’d focus more on aerobics and walking longer training hikes (10-12 miles).

Boots – I wore a great pair of Keen Targhee II Mid-Height boots. They did a great job of for me, did not seem to weigh too much, and were waterproof yet didn’t suffocate my feet. I chose mid-height boots because I wanted good ankle support and, without a doubt, it was very necessary on some of the Camino trails. I replaced my SuperFeet insoles halfway through with generic “gel” insoles that provided much better bottom cushioning. You will reach a point where you can feel every single, tiny pebble on the path through your boot soles and you’ll change the way you walk just to find the smoothest way – that gel insole saved my feet. Do whatever you need to do to provide the most comfortable shoe/foot experience you can! I packed an extra set of boot laces, which I did not need. I also packed some “Boot Balls”, a pair of small plastic balls containing boric acid, used to eliminated boot odor overnight, which I recommend.

Backpack Security – I spent a fair amount of time planning how to prevent someone from stealing my backpack when I had to leave it outside a cafe. Total waste of time and money. I only had to leave my backpack outside twice in 36 days and both times I could easily see it through a window and there were scads of other pilgrims around it. No need at all to lash it to a railing or lock it to a table leg. Mind you, I removed my neck wallet (containing passport, money, and credit cards) from the pack’s top compartment and wore it into the cafe with me. That’s just basic security. Otherwise, don’t obsess over someone stealing your pack or trekking poles. I over-packed with some combination carabiner/locks and Velcro security straps, which I subsequently jettisoned along the way.

Rain Jacket & Pants vs Poncho – I started with the former and ended with the latter. Let’s face it, both of these rain gear approaches will produce the “internal steam bath” effect under exertion and you’re going to wind up wet one way or the other. In the end, I liked the poncho much more because:
– My poncho is hooded, has arms, and is cut to be large enough to go over a backpack. I could pull it out of its stuff sack and put it on in about 10 seconds, without having to take off my pack (or even stop walking).
– Your pack stays completely dry – with a rain jacket, the straps are out in the rain and can wick moisture into other areas of pack.
– I could unzip the poncho front to get more fresh airflow once rain stopped falling.
– I could also slip my arms out of the sleeves, tie the sleeves across my chest, and get even more fresh airflow without uncovering my pack. Returning to full coverage if rain started again was quick and easy.
– In its stuff sack, the poncho took up a lot less than half the pack space that the rain jacket and pants did and weighed less, too.

Yes, a poncho can be difficult in the wind, but mine came down below my knees and I never had a problem with wind catching it. Yes, the bottoms of my pant legs got wet and my socks wicked the moisture, eventually, into my boots. Wasn’t a big problem for me, but you could supplement the poncho with gaiters to prevent this.

Music and Ear Buds – I thought the idea of listening to music while walking the Camino was blasphemy: you’d miss the sounds of nature, you’d be distracted from the Camino experience. Well, not surprisingly, it was great to be able to listen to my music at times on the trail. Yes, the Camino can be boring and music helps. Also your music generally reflects YOU, and I found it useful in helping me concentrate my thoughts about different things as I walked. Note that, by wearing ear buds/phones you’re cutting yourself off from some sounds, like mountain bikes approaching from the rear, and that can affect your safety.

Cell Phone – Having a cell phone with something like the Wise Camino app (which can show you your real-time location using GPS) was essential. The Camino path is poorly marked in places, splits occasionally without much explanation, and may be hard to follow early in the morning before sunrise, even with a headlamp. Being able to figure out where the heck I was and where the path went was crucial for me several times. If you’re a solo pilgrim, it’s even more important. In addition, it was essential to be able to call ahead a few days in advance and reserve spaces in albergues and hostels, especially if I wanted a bottom bunk or a private room. Pilgrim traffic on the Camino is growing every year and I think the days of just showing up and getting a bed are ending.

I also spent some time thinking about packing some fancy and complicated arrangements for plugging in my iPhone charging cable, all of which was completely unnecessary. I had outlets available at all times at night and all I needed with a simple EU plug adapter. I also used a simple Otter box case for my phone, no need anything more bullet-proof.

Headlamp – If you plan to be up and out early in the morning, before sunrise, a headlamp is essential for finding your way. My Camino was in September and October and sunrise came later and later as the days went by, so my headlamp got more of a workout than I thought it would.

Socks – There are a lot of different sock strategies and mine was to wear a single pair of LL Bean boot socks. In addition, I used a scheme that cut my daily walk into logical quarters. After the first quarter, I’d stop walking wherever possible, remove my boots, and give myself a little foot massage. At the halfway point, I’d repeat the massage, put my feet up on a chair, etc. for a few minutes, and replace my socks with a clean, dry pair. I’d hang the “old” socks off the back of my pack to dry as I walked. At the 3/4 point, another stop for boots off and foot massage. Seemed to work well (although I did get some deep blisters early on). I also carried two giant 5″ long safety pins, purchased from Amazon, which I used to hang my socks off my pack.

Toiletries – Some albergues don’t provide anything in the bathroom other than TP. You have to bring your own towel, soap, shampoo, etc. There may not even be paper hand towels near the sinks. I packed both a big micro-fiber camp towel for after showering and a similar small towel just for drying my hands after brushing my teeth. But, don’t pack all the toiletries you would take on a vacation. Don’t pack deodorant, shaving cream (yes, I shaved but I used hand soap), after shave, perfume, cologne, hair gel, etc. I had a manual toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, Lush shampoo bar, razor and blades, folding comb/brush combo, and that was it.

Laundry Kit – I had the clothes I was wearing and one spare set, which meant I was doing laundry every day. Sometimes, the albergue or hostel had a washing machine and dryer, which they charged 3-4 Euros each to use and, which like many European appliances, took forever to run a cycle. I mostly did my laundry by hand in either a provided laundry sink, or in the bathroom sink. This meant I had to carry everything I needed to do the laundry, including a clothesline. Albergues often provided outdoor drying racks or clotheslines which I used when I could but I also got really good at stringing up my own clothesline in unlikely places. I carried laundry soap, two suction cup hooks, a 12-foot line, and eight clothespins. I over-packed with a second kind of clothesline and extra hooks, which I jettisoned along the way. Note that hand-washing stuff and then putting it into a clothes dryer usually doesn’t work well; without the spin cycle a washing machine provides, your clothes will be relatively wet going into the dryer and take forever to dry.

Trekking Poles – For me, an absolute necessity – they kept a stumble from turning into a fall on many occasions. The footing on a lot of the path, especially on the steep inclines and declines, is really tricky and having poles was vital. Not everyone uses them, or even a walking stick, but they really saved my bacon. Be sure to bring extra tips to cover the end points. My poles had cork handles and didn’t have a “shock absorber” mechanism.

Sleeping Bag – I carried a Sea to Summit Traveller TR 750 bag and used it frequently and always when in a bunk bed. It was plenty warm, packed down quite small, was lightweight, and long enough for me. I sprayed the bag with Permethrin before departing for Spain and, despite worrying about them, I saw zero bed bugs.

Extra Stuff – I carried a bag of extra stuff that it turned out I did not need at all. This included extra clothesline, carabiners, a charger-battery for my iPhone, extra ZipLoc bags, extra rubber bands, my own pillow case, trash bag for wet clothes, and a pack of ear plugs. Didn’t use any of it.

I Wish I Had Taken: A pair of warm, waterproof gloves. My hands got pretty cold during extended periods of rain, when my regular gloves soaked through.

The “You Can Buy It There” Myth – When discussing Camino packing lists, I often see this phrase touted as a reason for not packing some things. On the face of it, it’s true, Spain is a modern society with a fully-functional retail system. But, that’s not much comfort when you have a splitting headache at 2:00am and going out to buy something is not possible. Also, products vary widely from country to country and even something as simple as toothpaste can be very different in Spain. You comfortable using Advil? How about Paracetemol, the European near-equivalent? Not so much, maybe. In addition, rural towns along the Camino may be less likely to have what your looking for, or stores that are open when you need something. And, oh yes, stuff like Paracetemol can only be bought in pharmacies; it’s not available in grocery stores (or anywhere else). Bottom Line: if it’s medicinal, lightweight, small, and likely to be needed in a pinch, pack your own.

Thanks again for following along here with me on my Camino. It was an amazing experience. I’m currently living in Barcelona and you can read about that, and my future travels, here on this web site.

Epilogue: In Santiago

20 Oct 2019

Several days have passed since my arrival in Santiago and the end of my Camino. In that time, I presented my Pilgrim Passport at the Pilgrim Office here and received my Compostela, the official certificate of completion:

Not sure who “Josephum” is, but let’s not quibble

Even with my Compostela in hand, I keep thinking I need to get another stamp in my credential.

Not really much room for more stamps…

Spent my last Camino night, the one of my arrival, in The Last Stamp Albergue, to get the full experience one last time. It didn’t fail to deliver: bunk beds, snoring, late night lights, early and noisy departers, tight spaces, communal living, little sleep. I loved it. I know I’ll have dreams about walking the Camino for some time. I already miss the pilgrim community.

My last bunk bed, at The Last Stamp Albergue

I’ve spent several hours per day in the last few days at the plaza in front of the cathedral here. Pilgrims arriving in the plaza have typical behavior: they hug, some kneel, some pray, all are ecstatic. They take pictures of each other, or group shots, and take it all in. Some are very emotional. Some note and photograph the last Camino scallop marker, the “Kilometer Zero” marker on the ground in the middle of the plaza. There’s a lot of great energy in the plaza.

Large tour groups congregate around the plaza and occasionally some really inconsiderate guides put them right smack in the middle of things, for an extended period, where all the pilgrims would like to stand to have a picture – very rude.

I’ve noticed many pilgrims coming back to the plaza, like me, the second or third day they’ve been here, to relive the moment of arrival and watch the joy of new arrivals. When I’ve returned to the plaza, I’ve tried to help arriving pilgrims by taking their group photos and giving them directions to the Pilgrim Office.

“Where did you start?” is a common pilgrim question and those of us who can answer “St. Jean” get immediate respect. One pair of pilgrims even said to me in response, semi-jokingly, “We are not worthy”. The long walk from France is apparently the King of the Caminoes (there are other routes, all shorter).

Meanwhile, the cathedral itself is undergoing renovations ahead of the 2021 Holy Year celebration and access is limited. I went through but declined to get in the long line to “hug” the statue of Saint James. The gold leaf in the tiny part I was able to see was dazzling. As I’ve done in most churches I visited along the way, I lit a candle in memory of my late sister.

I’ve been thinking about the contributors to my, and other pilgrims’, success. The owners and staffs of small cafes across Spain deserve to be mentioned and given our thanks. They put up with our backpacks and wet ponchos, our trekking poles and muddy boots, with our poor or non-existent Spanish language skills, our inability to count well-marked Euro coins, with our practice of removing our boots (and even changing our socks) in their dining areas. Most did this politely and professionally, many with good cheer and encouraging smiles. They fed us, served us endless cups of cafe con leche, provided dry, warm shelter and restrooms, and cleaned up the messes we left behind. They held onto the hats, cell phones, wallets, poles, and other stuff we left behind, until we returned to claim them. They decorated their establishments as Cowboy Bars, Knights Templar forts, 1950s clubs, and other imaginative places. They were there when we most needed to sit down, needed to put our feet up, and desperately needed to take a break. They called a taxi when we were injured or couldn’t take another step. Yes, the Camino economy keeps them, and sometimes their towns, alive but we still owe them our deep gratitude.

So, what was it all about? The inner stuff, the accomplishment and achievement, the challenge met, sure. I think it was also about the pilgrims I met, and met again later, along the path. There was something spiritual going on there for me. The unlikely connections and can’t-be-random interactions with people from all over the world kept me in tune with the special moment of what I was doing on the Camino. This walk also came at a transitional time in my life, my retirement, and that colored my views and conversations, too.

That’s what I have for now, though I expect new things will bubble up in the next few months. This was often a difficult and uncomfortable undertaking for me and I’m glad that it’s over. And I so very glad that I did it.

I think I’ll have one more post in this series, a “Camino post mortem”, where I review what things I packed that I shouldn’t have, and the decisions I made that were wrong or meaningless. Hopefully it will provide some guidance to anyone contemplating their own camino.

Stage 36: Lavacolla to Santiago

17 Oct 2019

Well, this it folks, my final 10 Km Camino walk into Santiago. The albergue booted us out by 8:00am, a good 40 minutes before sunrise, so it was headlamp time as I set off.

I thought there were a bunch of pilgrims ready to go out the door with me, but I found myself alone on the path and didn’t see another pilgrim for 90 minutes. Which was great: I had the Camino all to myself for a while on my final day.

Showers were forecast and, after yesterday’s monsoon conditions, everyone was braced for more of the same. Somehow I was spared and, despite everything around me being freshly wet, I never got any precipitation. Camino magic!

Pilgrims sometimes weave stuff into fences

I motored along at a slow pace and was soon walking suburban and then city streets. Then this appeared:


And then I and a gaggle of pilgrims ahead of and behind me entered the city’s historic district, and the sun came out. In the distance we could just see the cathedral spires:

There were quite a few normal tourists in town, too, so things got fairly crowded. And, of course, there were stairs. But wait, these went down to the cathedral plaza! Yes, there is a God after all!

The final scallop shell at the Zero Km mark in the plaza

I took the obligatory selfie in front of the cathedral today – I was a bit overwhelmed at the time. But I made it!

I’ll be in Santiago for three more days and will post more here once I have a little time to process it all. So stay tuned. But right now I want to thank all of you who followed the blog and encouraged me with your presence and comments – it has meant so much to me!

Stage 35: O Pedrouzo to Lavacolla

16 Oct 2019

Well, I’m now all caught up on this blog and am now reporting current events. I left O Pedrouzo this morning at 9:00, after having a leisurely pilgrim breakfast at a local cafe. There was no sense in rushing off earlier, as I was only going 10 Kms to Lavacolla. And, by delaying, I was hoping the rain would stop. No such luck: it came down in one form or another, one strength or another, all day long, and there was a mild wind blowing as well. So we were all resigned to being suited up in our rain gear and getting wet.

I pity the mountain bikers in this weather; it’s messy for them, their rain gear blows about a lot, barely keeping them dry, and with no fenders, they get sprayed with cold mud (and other matter) as well.

Cherri keeps appearing. She went into Santiago by taxi yesterday to meet her husband, then they taxied back this morning to the point where she left off so they could walk in together today. Their taxi dropped them off at a cafe and she walks in and – right up to me. I was in there getting some coffee and a stamp for my pilgrim passport. Really – what are the chances of that happening? Astronomical. She pointed out some other interesting points of conjunction: she and her husband lived in McLean, Virginia (a few miles away from me) for some years, and she was born and raised in Salem, Oregon, where my eldest daughter currently lives. Gives me goose bumps…

Your soggy author next to a Camino marker

Despite the rain, there’s now a feeling of pride and jubilation evident in the way people are walking. Many, if not most, that I shared the path with today were headed all the way into Santiago. The rain and wind makes for a less comfortable experience but doesn’t take away from our achievement.

I’m staying tonight in Albergue Lavacolla, a very nice establishment, run by a very welcoming staff who had the whole handling wet clothes-boots drill down to a science. For an extra three Euros, I found myself assigned to a private room that had a single bunk bed in it, with no roommate. Nice. The whole floor of those types of rooms is sparsely populated, so the shared bathrooms and showers are almost private, too.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be up and out at the usual time, into the forecast rain, for my last few hours on the Camino. I suspect I’ll get emotional when I arrive in the plaza in front of the big cathedral. I’m staying tomorrow night at an albergue in Santiago very aptly named The Last Stamp. So many thoughts going through my mind tonight.

Stage 34: Arzua to O Pedrouzo

15 Oct 2019

I set out from Arzua at 8:30am, rigged for rain, which was forecast to happen periodically. It was wet but not actually raining when I left, which was encouraging. You could almost, sort of, see the sunrise.

My 19 Km walk to O Pedrouzo would be my last long one. The rain held off until 10:30am and then we had a 30-minute downpour.

Some cafes are conveniently right beside the Camino

Cherri caught up with me on the path (it’s always something of a surprise to encounter someone you know in rain gear – often you can’t be sure who they are until you get full facial recognition). Her news was that her husband was flying in the next day and would join her for her last walk into Santiago. We had a nice talk about what the Camino means and the pilgrims you meet. I’m very glad I met her.

My walk took me through groves of Eucalyptus trees…
…and past exotic taverns (those are all beer bottles)

Arca/O Pedrouzo is a “pilgrim town”, i.e. one that pretty much exists for the Camino and I arrived in wet but good shape at 1:40 pm. My hostel was nice but the continuing rain put a damper on everything, really, so no sidewalk bar hang happened. Instead I went to a nearby Dia, the best Spanish supermarket, and came back with the makings of a picnic dinner to have in my room.

During a brief glimpse of the sun today, I took this photo:

Proof that the end is indeed near. Rain is forecast again for tomorrow, but I’ll only be walking 10Kms to Lavacolla. I’m excited now but unsure how I’ll feel when I reach Km Zero.

Stage 33: Melide to Arzua

14 Oct 2019

After a decent breakfast in a nearby cafe, I joined the line of pilgrims heading out of town around 8:40, with 50F. We were all dressed for rain:

And Nature did not disappoint us today. It poured down on us at times and was overcast and threatening all day. What a slog!

The walking strategy gets turned on its head: in dry conditions, we usually look for the least-rocky, smoothest track on the path. But in the rain, that’s often where the path becomes a stream bed, so you don’t walk there. Also, the cow and horse poop we usually carefully avoid is now indistinguishable from the mud. Yuck.

Nonetheless, everyone seems pretty cheerful and keeps on moving.

In another one of those weird Camino occurrences, I was overtaken on the trail by Cherri, whom I hadn’t seen in 10 days, walking with Susan! It was nice to see Cherri again and we all laughed about the Camino joining people together in spooky ways.

Another effect of the rain is that you just don’t have as many places and opportunities to take breaks. In fact, I walked all 14 Kms today without stopping, which was dumb.

Just as I got into Arzua, a cold, hard rain came pounding down and suddenly I was wet right down to my toes. It was too early to get into my hostel so I took refuge in the first nearby restaurant: Cafe Teatro (“The Theatre Cafe”) where opera was playing on the jukebox. Weird coincidence, eh? Rather than being angry with me for streaming water into her place, the owner welcomed me, took pity, and revived me with hot chicken soup. Wonderful!

Later, the staff at my hostel was equally on the ball weather-wise, and in no time I’d had a hot shower, my wet clothes were in the washer/dryer, and I had heat in my room. That called for a celebratory beverage, and I chose a bottle of Peregrina, a craft beer brewed in Santiago. It was a pretty tasty lager.

I’m very cognizant of the fact that the days are winding down. In three days I’ll be in Santiago and I’m trying to process all sorts of feelings. Tomorrow is my last long walk, 19 Kms, followed by two deliberate, make-it-last 10 Km shorties.

Stage 32: Eirexe to Melide

13 Oct 2019

It was still dark when I left the Pension Eirexe at 8:00am and crossed the road to the cafe for breakfast. Susan was already there and breakfast was meager: cafe con leche and toast. The sky was overcast and ground was wet, 52F, rain forecast periodically throughout the day. I was headed for Melide, 22 Kms away, expecting to arrive around 2:30. As it happened, there was no real rain during my walk, just some mist and occasional sprinkles. Hooray!

There are a variety of rain gear strategies. The pack-covering poncho (my fave) is very popular, followed by the pack rain cover and jacket. Asian pilgrims seem to like carrying an umbrella!

I like the poncho because I can put it on easily and quickly, it covers everything (including pack shoulder straps), it can be progressively removed for better ventilation as conditions improve, and it can be put back into its stuff sack without breaking stride.

Of course, just because it doesn’t actually rain doesn’t mean you’re not going to be wet. The “steam bath” effect ensures that your clothes will be wet and need cleaning/drying.

Melide is a large, dense city and the streets were busy with markets and traffic, so navigating through it to find my hostel was a challenge. I succeeded and the rain held off until I did. The real rain began after I checked in; which complicated getting lunch/dinner as I have limited extra clothes and only open-toed sandals to wear outside the hostel.

The Pension Pereiro staff was kind of terse, possibly Russian, and the place was new but odd. For example, the interior courtyard separating the rooms from everything else was a nice idea but didn’t work well when it was raining. And, there was no heat that night, which meant some of my clothes didn’t dry completely. All in a day’s progress on the Camino.

Stage 31: Portomarin to Eixere

12 Oct 2019

Crowds of pilgrims now apparent in the morning

It was a clear 54F when I left Portomarin. Albergue/hostel owners save money, I guess, as their season starts to wind down by not firing up the furnace. The radiator in my pension room was cold as stone all night long, so there was no heat when it was needed. I see more and more pilgrims in the morning now, a long snaking line of day-glow colors. Judging from overheard conversations on the trail, since Sarria, there have been many more Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, and Spaniards added to the mix.

After the climb out of town this morning, it was easy walking through small villages all day. And it ended 18 Kms later, around 1:30 in Eirexe, a small bend in the road that features a pension, an albergue, and a cafe. While having a cocktail at the cafe, the owner of this interesting vehicle stopped in:

He said it was entirely human-powered and a real workout on some of the hills. I guess I’ve now seen it all on the Camino now: this, tandem mountain bikes, jogging strollers, rickshaw-style cargo trailers, horses, and of course the regular pilgrim.

I walked today with Susan from Seattle, a tennis enthusiast, whom I met a few days earlier sharing cocktails with Ken, Kerry, and Christie. She was staying where I was in Eirexe, so we had cocktails there too, and she asked if I’d had any epiphanies so far and we discussed the effects of Camino, and how people appear during your walk. Neither of us reported any great insights but we agreed that who you meet along the way means something.

Tomorrow’s weather is rumored to be wet, so it was frustrating to discover that the WiFi signal didn’t extend to my pension room (and barely existed six feet from the router in the common room) and that I had no cell data signal at all. Wow! Modern existential crisis: unable to determine weather on Camino using mobile phone!

I decided to see what tomorrow delivered…

Stage 30: Sarria to Portomarin

11 Oct 2019

I had a good night’s sleep (perhaps the cocktails helped) and left Sarria at my usual 8:30, in clear, 46F weather. Today was going to be a long one, 22 Kms, to Portomarin. It became a gorgeous, clear Fall day, into the mid-70s, with no humidity.

I passed a lot of this stuff growing by the path: yes, that’s cabbage but the tall stalks seem very unusual. It’s used in the this province, Galicia, for their signature “Caldo Gallego” or potato-cabbage soup.

They also grow a lot of these, but I think this is the first photo of Elsie I’ve taken:

With this kind of weather and path surface, I could walk all day:

And, our helpful Camino marker/milepost says, I have less than 100 Kms to Santiago!

Just outside Portomarin, I encountered Kerri and Christie in a roadside cafe but I said just hello and kept on going. We never did run across each other that night in Portomarin.

Shortly after that, I came to a place where the trail split. Which way to go? There was a helpful sign, saying the new slightly longer path was much easier, while the old, original shorter path involved some nasty clambering down rocks. Definitely the new path for me! But guess who misread the sign and went the old way? I did, of course, and found myself on the Portomarin “Billy Goat Trail”, literally on all fours going down very narrow rock chutes. Luckily, I made it safely through, though my legs were incredibly tired. And, I arrived at the foot of the bridge into town in double-quick time:

Yes, there was a set of steep stairs at the other end to get up into town

My hostel was quite near the main plaza and the fortress-like church. According to my cafe/bar place mat, in 1956 the entire church was relocated from a zone being flooded by a new dam, stone-by-stone, and rebuilt here.

I mentioned Caldo Gallego earlier, the regional soup, and here it is, along with my main course:

Starter: Caldo Gallego – potatoes, cabbage, navy beans: very tasty

The Main: Roast pork ribs and frites – outstanding!

Now that we’ve passed Sarria, we’ve also been advised that we need to get two stamps per day in our pilgrim passports. So I have to remember to do that. We’re urged onward by the local statuary: